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activity ideas

organisation skills ideas

Therapy Space Handout.

COPING STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS  useful for all neurodiversity conditions


Timers – use an egg timer when working on a piece of homework, and set it every fifteen minutes to remind the child what this ‘feels’ like.  A timer in the shower or bathroom set for ten minutes will act as a reminder that their time is up.

Digital watch – these are often easier to read than a traditional watch and can be set to alarm at certain times to remind the teenager to complete a certain activity.

Buzzer key reminders – there are all sorts of reminder key rings and pens available that can remind you at certain times.  There is a pen with a rewinding tape and a key ring that can record about 15 seconds of tape.  They can be useful in just saying ” remember the German book” for example, and can be played back at home to check the books back in to the bag to go back to school as well.


Laminated timetable – this can be put in the child’s room to remind them to get out the appropriate clothes and sports kit for the following day.  Another copy can be on the inside of their school bag and a third one in their locker acting as a reminder at key points.  If you can get this before the child moves to the school this also acts to prepare them for the change.

Key on a chain – losing your locker key is a problem when it happens more than once.  Putting in on a string around the child’s neck may be dangerous.  Using a key ring on a plastic ‘curly’ chain means it is where he will need it.  If the trousers don’t have a belt loop, sew a piece of tape inside a pocket for the key ring to be attached.

Mentor or buddy – a new school day is very stressful.  A buddy that knows their way around can make all the difference.  They can take them from class to class.  They can also remind them to check their books into their bags at the end of the day and also help them to make sure they have the correct equipment for each class.  This can be a problem if the other children think that the child is having extra help all the time, and it does need to be handled sensitively to make sure the child doesn’t n become bullied as a consequence.  An older child as a mentor, perhaps someone in the sixth form, can be very supportive.  The sixth former can talk to the class teacher if there are problems, whereas the child may be reluctant to do so, especially if they are new to the school.


Appropriate clothing – labelled, and in drawers that are labelled -at home make sure the child is well prepared for the day.  Drawers should be ordered and labelled in a way that makes it easier and logical to find clothes.  The child should be part of the process of organising this, as this will reinforce for him, where items are.


Pencil case – use a clear plastic pencil case where the objects can be seen from the outside.  A list of the contents can then be stapled on the inside, but facing the outside of the case.  At the end of the lesson all the items can be checked back into the case.  This reduces the chances of losing items.  The pencil case should contain the bare minimum to get through the school day (less to drop etc.).


Use a ruler with a ridge – or an architects metal ruler with a handle, as this will make it easier to place the ruler on the paper.  Place Dycem on the end of the ruler so it grips to the paper.


A selection of pens – and pencils with and without grips should be tried out to see what suits the child.  There are some pens with a rubber area to grip on to, that can be quite comfortable.  The child with ligamentous laxity may find that a gripper makes it harder not easier.


Make sure there is a spare set – of all equipment at home which stays there, so that the school pencil case can stay in the child’s bag ready for the following day.


Use scissors – that are the appropriate size for the child and if they are left handed, get left handed scissors.  If the child cannot use scissors well, think about using artists cutters or dressmakers scissors (Peta roll cut scissors) which may be easier to manipulate or even battery operated scissors.


Have a homework diary/message book – that can be checked in and out with the timetable clearly written on the inside cover.  Have another book for difficult to spell words, tables etc.  Break tables down into small steps.


Money – buy a purse belt or round the neck travel wallet.


Keep work tidy – have plastic folders for work sheets.


Forgetting things – use post it notes or other visual cues.


Homework – have a phone number of a helpful friend for queries.  Agree level of help with school.  Use alternate lines if work will have many errors (white space improves presentation).  Allow 15 minutes to unwind after homework, before giving any instructions (e.g. drink, snack, bath, music or video).


Problem solving use the 4 point plan – to encourage confidence to think through situations and problem solve independently.

–          What is the problem/what am I supposed to do?

–          What is my plan/how can I do it?

–          Am I using my plan?

–          How did I do?

Problem solving with help – task analysis – when faced with a situation that cannot be worked through independently, following the task analysis format with another person.  This structures the external help and provides opportunities for independence.

–          Name the task.

–          Break down the task into small steps.

–          Write down the steps onto cue cards.

–          Read through the steps aloud.

–          Practice the task using the cards as visual prompts.

–          Talk through each step as you go.

–          Any feedback?  What went well/could have been better?

–          Use as form of checklist.


Temper outbursts – work on temper reducing activities, have a selection planned in advance e.g.

–          Go swimming, play in the park, provide food, drink, cuddle, T.V. punch bag, drawing, music, time alone to cool down.

–          A small favourite toy on string pinned to the inside of pocket can be reassuring and calming.  Count to ten.

Traffic light codes –  Aim –

–          To help with expression of views at the time of an incident.  Use of the traffic light code can enable him/her to instantly make his/her feelings known regarding a given situation.

–          Red – I’m very cross

–          Amber – I’m not happy

–          Green – Everything is O.K.


Expressing him/her self appropriately

–          Emotional confrontation – use of the DESC script could help order his/her thoughts and feelings in certain situations.

–          D – describe the problem

–          E – explain why and include your emotions

–          S – say what you want to happen

–          C – give the consequence and conclusion

–          (the script can be quickly rehearsed on the spot and the acronyms used as prompts).


Rewards – Have a system of rewards planned.

–          Your attention

–          A joint activity.

–          Do not underestimate the value of a cuddle.


Communication – Speak in the positive

–          “Hold the scissors by the closed blades”, rather than “don’t hold the scissors like that”.

–          Say what answer you would have liked to have heard e.g. “Yes Mum I’d love to clear the table”.

for further information and ideas call Linda Plowden OT 07814 633926



Tactile sensory system




¨       We get tactile information through sensory receptors located in the skin.

¨       The tactile system provides us with information about touch sensations: pressure, vibration, movement, temperature and pain.

¨       The tactile sense is made up of two components: the protective (or defensive) system and the discriminative system.


Why is the processing of tactile information important?

¨       The tactile sense or sense of touch is a huge sensory system that gives us information needed for visual perception, motor planning, body awareness, academic learning social skills and emotional security.

¨       The function of the protective / defensive system is to alert us to potentially harmful stimuli. We need it for survival. The receptors for this system are in the skin, particularly the hairy skin on the head and genitals. Light touch is the stimulus that causes the receptors to respond.

¨       The function of the discriminative system is to tell us what we are touching / where on our bodies it is touching us, and the properties of that touch, i.e. size, shape, texture, temperature and whether the touch is light or deep. The receptors for this system are found in the skin, especially of the hands and fingers, soles of the feet and the mouth and tongue.

¨       As an infant develops into childhood, the discriminative system suppresses the protective / defensive system, although not completely. Both systems work together to enable us to interpret tactile information throughout our lives.

¨       Tactile dysfunction is the inefficient processing in the central nervous system of the sensations perceived through the skin.


Functional Implications:

Over-responsive to touch: Tactile Defensiveness  /Hypersensitivity:

¨       Child has a tendency to react negatively and emotionally to unexpected, light touch sensations

¨       May dislike having hair washed and brushed and nails cut

¨       May display hostility / or withdraw from situations requiring lots of tactile input: i.e. getting dressed, in the playground

¨       Overreaction to physically painful experiences: make a “big deal” about a minor scrape

¨       Fuss about clothing, such as stiff new clothes, shirt collars, elasticated waists, hats and scarves. May prefer short sleeves and shorts, even in winter to avoid the sensation of clothes rubbing on the skin / OR prefer long sleeves even in summer to avoid having skin exposed

¨       Avoidance of messy play activities i.e. finger painting, clay, sand and water play / fastidious about washing every bit of dirt from hands

¨       Excessive ticklishness / avoidance of kisses preferring hugs

¨       Seeks out deep pressure sensations which are easier to process and can be calming and organising

Under-responsive to touch: Hyposensitivity: (i.e. The child who is not processing enough movement information)

¨       Craves extra stimulation and is constantly touching objects and people

¨       May show no reaction to pain from scrapes, bruises, cuts or injections

¨       May be unaware of messiness around the mouth / nose: may not notice a runny nose

¨       May hurt other children or pets during play, seemingly without remorse but actually not understanding the pain that others feel

¨       May drop things without realising

Poor tactile discrimination (i.e. The child’s brain does not register information about how things feel)

¨       Difficulties using tactile sense for complicated purposes like learning at school

¨       Child may be unable to identify which body parts have been touched without looking

¨       May be afraid of the dark

¨       May be a messy dresser i.e. twisted waistbands, shoes untied etc.

¨       May be a messy eater

¨       Difficulties with tool use: i.e. cutlery, scissors, pencils, paintbrush etc.

¨       May avoid initiating tactile experiences i.e. picking up tools / toys

N.B Remember: your child may be both HYPERSENSITIVE and HYPOSENSITIVE, i.e. s/he may be extremely sensitive to light touch, moving away from a light tap on the shoulder, but indifferent to the deep pain of an injection.

Strategies to Help Improve the processing of Tactile information:

1.     Where possible, avoid surprising your child with unexpected light touch sensations i.e. brushing past them, approaching from behind and touching them.

2.     At school, make sure that your child is not sitting at the end of a the desk next to the main walk way in the classroom, so as to reduce the likelihood of unexpected light touch.

3.     Provide opportunities for your child to experience deep pressure sensations as these help to suppress sensitivity to light touch sensations. Deep pressure can be provided by a bear hug, being rolled up and squashed in a duvet, through rough and tumble play, massage, press-ups etc. Any activity that provides pressure to the joints can be very calming and may help prepare your child for a difficult light touch activity, i.e. hair washing / tooth brushing.

4.     Use sheets on the bed that can be tucked in tightly to make your child feel secure. Some children feel safer sleeping on their beds in a sleeping bag

5.     Brushing with a surgical brush (ask your Occupational Therapist for advice on this technique) can help to reduce your child’s sensitivity.


Activities to reduce Tactile Defensiveness:

  • When directing a movement – use firm touch.  Firm pressure can help reduce tone, calm and organise a child’s movements.
  • Avoid light brushing or intermittent light touches.
  • Give verbal cues to prepare a child.
  • Sometimes activities that emphasise joint compression (e.g.. jumping, dangling, pushing, pulling, weight bearing) may help.  Heavy muscle work often reduces sensory defensiveness.
  • Use a variety of texture experiences on the skin.  Start dry and progress – wet materials, e.g. sand, rice, pasta, packaging foam.
  • Small toys hidden in a bucket full of paper / sawdust / material for the child to find.
  • Activities that involve all over body pressure; pretend the child is being painted with a paint roller or get him/her to roll him/herself up in a rug, sheet, etc.
  • Brushes and scourers (not too rough) are useful to have in and out of the bath e.g. nailbrushes, paint, scrubbing and cosmetic brushes.
  • Playdoh – for rolling, patting, poking and modelling.
  • Outdoor play – encourage swinging on a tyre or swing – try on tummy pushing with legs.
  • Play catch and throw with weighted materials, e.g. Beanbags, heavy padded balls.
  • Wet activities – body painting
  • hand lotion / shaving foam on mirror or tray.  Also include cleaning as part of activity
  • When completing puzzles and activities indoors try getting your child to work on their tummies with elbow support
  • Cooking / baking activities involving handling ingredients and experiencing different textures
  • Gardening activities: planting / watering seeds: handling soil etc.
  • Self care activities: Hand washing – Try using liquid soap and a nailbrush.
  • Bath times – Encourage use of different textured bath mitts to wash parts of body.  Afterwards, firmly rub down with a thick terry towel.
  • Encourage the child to rub hands and body with lotion.